While on a work assignment to administer monitoring and evaluation questionnaires on the progress of the SADC protocol on gender and development in Midvaal one of Gauteng’s town I was disappointed to see the struggles of local women entrepreneurship. It made me realise that entrepreneurship policies are not fully gender responsive.
Entrepreneurship for African women gained priority in the late 1970s. Currently academics, aid workers and African feminists advocate for the spirit of entrepreneurial women which summaries the capacity and willingness of women to develop, organise and manage businesses along with its risks in order to make a profit.
Associated with men for decades the entrepreneurial spirit characterised by innovation and risk taking had sudden change of late. African women are now economically empowered as featured in the discourse of international gender and development. Women entrepreneurial skills have increased in accordance with the competitive global market place.
Organisations such as the Business Women’s Association of South Africa and the Gender Links through Sunrise Campaign have greatly impacted the lives of women. The establishment of these organisations has been of great significance in promoting opportunities to support, connect and grow women in business through lobbying, mentoring, networking, developing and recognising excellence in women.
Several women in Midvaal, Gauteng have attested that entrepreneurship drastically changed and continues to change their lives. Testimonials ranged from being economically independent, making economic decisions in households, re-establishing respectful and dignified marriages, self-development, financial freedom and dissolving stigmas of being gender based violence victims.
The SADC Gender Protocol 2016 Barometer, chapter 4 on productive resources, employment and economic empowerment revealed that the proportion of women in economic decision making decreased from 27% in 2015 to 20% in 2016. There is only one finance minister in the region (in Lesotho). Only three women are trade and industry ministers (Angola, DRC and South Africa) and three are female central bank governors in (Botswana, Lesotho and Seychelles).
Moreover, support given to entrepreneur women by the civil society and governments of various African countries is not sufficient enough for sustainable growth of their businesses.
Patriarchal stereotypes from men poses challenges as some men believe that women cannot start businesses without their permission. Sometimes men undermine the potential of women to manage businesses and once women exceed their expectations, they feel eligible to indulge women’s business profits which is therefore detrimental to the growth of their businesses.
Entrepreneurship challenges sometimes emanate from lack of business start-up capital, lack of appropriate property for carrying out the daily business requirements and lack of business analysts to provide business training.
Lack of equal participation by women and men in policy formulation and implementation which continues to escalate has contributed to the challenges faced by women in business. Rising prominently is the lack of equal access to resources, opportunities and benefits for women in entrepreneurship.
Economic policies persistently remain largely gender blind and this hinders many women from pursuing and expanding their businesses. Therefore, it is important for entrepreneurship policies to be gender responsive. Women deserve equal rights and access to economic resources, control, and ownership over productive resources and property. Special measures to ensure that women equally benefit from economic opportunities should be developed as they are essential for entrepreneurial growth. Self-development that is sustainable is a human right that everyone deserves.
- This article was written by Melody Kandare. This article was first published on Gender Links.
Photo courtesy: Gender Links